Technology advisory firm Cloud Fixers has helped mid-sized chartered accounting firm Allan Hall Business Advisors adopt a software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, removing on-premises servers during its 18-month technology modernisation program.
Working with Allan Hall, Cloud Fixers designed a change journey that took the business from legacy technology via cloud infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS), and then fully into SaaS.
The project also saw Allan Hall, a long-time user of MYOB's accountancy software, switch over to New Zealand firm Xero.
As Allan Hall Business partner Simon Paterson explained, two years ago, it was operating multiple on-premises servers that needed replacement and a substantial capital outlay.
Additionally, some desktops took long periods to boot up and the company's practice management system was designed and configured more than 20 years ago.
“We vigorously explored all available options to modernise all of our technology and practice management systems, and bring them up to date with the most efficient systems available for professional services,” Paterson said. “Fortunately, we connected with Cloud Fixers, who provided an independent review of our processes and systems at the time, and that’s when we learned what was possible in the modern landscape.
“Most people are surprised that we have been able to shift from traditional software, servers and the inevitable customisations that have built up over many years to this modern landscape in such a short period of time, without significant interruption to our work practices.”
Cloud Fixers CEO David Perks said it looked at the situation through different lenses: the client experience, employee experience and finally the shareholder lens.
For the employee systems, Allan Hall was looking simplify the ways that people were working, support them with modern platforms, and provide fast access to systems and data securely from anywhere.
Working systematically through a list of critical action points, Allan Hall replaced its network with a faster and redundant internet connection for fast access to the cloud. Following this, servers were lifted and shifted out of the server room in Brookvale and into Microsoft Azure.
“These changes were early in our journey and happened just in time for the first round of COVID lock downs,” Paterson said. “They made the whole work from home situation very seamless from a technology perspective. What COVID resulted in for us is that we probably cycled in laptops to replace desktops more quickly than we otherwise might have done”.
Placing infrastructure in the cloud environment gave way to retiring legacy systems and implementing modern practices, including Xero's sfotware.
“Becoming Xero centric has allowed Allan Hall to replace a large number of bolt-ons that were built around MYOB with a much smaller set of core systems,” Perks added.
Xero Practice Manager, Xero Tax, FYI Docs, ATO Mate and eSignature software plus Office365 and Practice Protect are the new platforms, which form Allan Hall’s modernised environment.
Perks said these work hand in glove so that the compliance work is prepared, reviewed, and filed efficiently and advisory work benefits from enhanced collaboration and knowledge sharing in Microsoft Teams and SharePoint.
A suite of Custom Xero Practice Manager and Power BI reports fills the management reporting need.
Cancelling various legacy systems and applications subscriptions over the last 18 months has resulted in meaningful savings according to Allan Hall who has since found their ongoing IT systems costs are significantly below previous levels.
“When we got into the cloud-based paradigm, we experienced a cost-effective way to run the infrastructure compared to what we had before, but since we have become serverless all of our costs are optimised and elastic as we scale and grow,” Paterson said. “Furthermore, because SaaS platforms are continuously upgraded, we have escaped the cycle of version upgrade projects. With only MS Office and a browser needed on devices, our desktop support needs are far simpler than in the past, so our IT Helpdesk costs are lower.
“While we have come a long way in a short time, adopting the mindset of being an agile business means that we are now much more aware of the future potential that technology can provide for us. This is a continuous journey, and we are excited to see where things go next.
“Whatever that future looks like, we have great confidence that the technology platform that we now have is able to adapt rapidly to those needs," he said.